Imagine a house with a cast iron sewer pipe connected to the town's
PVC pipe at the property line. Imagine - in the past - roots finding
their way into the junction of the 2 pipes and causing a partial
blockage every couple of years. The evidence was a gurgling basement
toilet when an upper floor toilet was flushed. A power snake would
solve the problem for a couple of years.
Now imagine that for the last five years the owner has been using
RootX on an annual basis and he hasn't had any problem with blockages
or gurgling toilets. Obviously he doesn't know if the RootX is keeping
the roots at bay or if they just stopped entering the pipe for some
reason. The only way he would know for sure is if he stopped using the
RootX and waited a couple of years to see if they came back. That's
not something he's willing to test. The minor inconvenience of using
RootX once a year gives him peace of mind.
Finally, fast forward into the future and imagine the owner putting
the house on the market 5, 10, maybe 15 years from now. Does he have
to disclose that 10, 15, or even 20 years ago (depending on when he
puts the house on the market) he used to get roots in the pipe? Does
he have to disclose that he uses RootX once a year as a "peace of
One data point would be to look up the specific law and/or
disclosure form that is required where the house is located.
NJ has a form the seller must fill out and it has a long list
of specific items and questions. Last time I looked, it was
really dumb, like what an elementary school kid would put
together. Questions like, "Have any repairs been made
to the roof?" So, if you replaced one shingle in 1994,
you're apparently required to disclose that. I guess houses
should have a log book like an airplane.....
If a question like that is on the list for where the house
is located, what exactly that question is and what it
requires would be very important.
Beyond that, I don't know. It's an interesting question.
I don't necessarily buy the fact that roots are routine
maintenance. Painting the house, cleaning gutters,
that's routine maintenance. A sewer system with root
intrusion is not normal and the problem is significant. In
his case, they were known to exist and to recur. I would
tend to say it's something that needs to be disclosed.
If I knew that ice dams were known to exist and known to recur, but
have since stopped being a problem after the roof, insulation and
ventilation were upgraded, would I still need to disclose that the
house had serious ice dam problems prior to the upgrade?
That would be one of those situations where you really don't know if
the problem has been fixed until it happens again. At that point
you'll know that it *hasn't* been fixed. It's not like it's something
you can test.
In other words, a specific set of conditions has to be in place for
the ice dam to cause water infiltration, so not having infiltration
since the upgrade might mean the roofing upgrade solved the problem or
it might mean that the specific set of conditions has not yet
One could argue that a specific set of circumstances has to exist for
roots to enter the pipe, so one wouldn't know if it was the RootX or
the lack of the specific conditions that has eliminated the issue. I
was told by a guy from a plumbing company 2 winters ago they had very
few calls for frozen pipes due to the mild weather, but that they
expected a very busy spring dealing with roots for the same reason.
The roots didn't get the water they needed from the snow melt, so they
will go looking for it elsewhere. My point is that roots can be an
ongoing problem but could also stop being a problem for different
reasons - RootX or Mother Nature.
Granted, I am aware that in this case the owner has been using RootX
for a number of years, and I guess someone could track down the
purchase records as proof that the owner hid the fact that he had been
"fighting" roots for many years. I guess it would depend on how long
after the house changed hands that the root problem showed up again -
assuming that it was the RootX that kept them at bay.
What is the statute of limitations on disclosures? Can the buyer come
back 3 springs later if he has a partial blockage due to roots and
fight for compensation?
A quick google shows that it's probably 3 years in CT, at
least. Probably varies from state to state.
But obviously that aside, the longer it goes, in general the
less likely the buyer is to prevail. But then again, the roots
thing is a recurrent problem that takes a while to develop.
It's not like a leaking roof, which you'd expect would be
I know of someone who was sued, and lost - but then won on appeals,
that they "knew or SHOULD have known" (emphasis mine) that the
80-year-old septic system was about to crumble.
It's a long story, but they reason the lower court said they
'should' have known was that they had it pumped out once in
the five years they owned the 80-year old bungalow.
The travesty of the moronic lower-court judge was overturned by the
higher appellate court, who ruled unanimously that homeowners in that
state (NJ) would never sleep at night after selling a home if they
were subject to the Draconian "should have known" rules that the
lower court had arbitrarily decided upon.
In hindsight, it's clear that the judge, who was being reprimanded
for other grievances, was trying to make a name for herself.
Luckily, the system worked - albeit it was slow - painful - and
expensive to overturn the rulings of a judge who had her own
So, after about two years of the slow legal process, everything
was set right (except, of course, legal costs - which were a loss
on one side as the other side was on a pay-if-you-win situation.
What lesson would the OP learn from this?
To each his own, but, to me, the lesson for the OP is:
* Better to disclose what you know, than to fight it in court later.
While I tend to agree, disclosing things that don't (legally) need to
be disclosed can cost money that otherwise might not have been spent.
I can imagine a buyer saying "replace the sewer pipe or I'm walking".
That's many thousands of dollars for a repair that might otherwise not
be needed, especially if it wasn't flagged during the inspection.
If something gets disclosed then by definition, it's a "problem" and
needs to be dealt with to the buyer's satisfaction.
Any chance of getting rid of the tree that is the source
of the roots? If the tree were gone, then you've largely
eliminated the problem. I say largely, because with a
truly intact sewer system, roots couldn't get in. So,
something isn't quite right, right?
And as you say, once you start down the disclosure path,
even if the tree is gone, once the buyer knows, then they
may say that the roots getting in is really secondary to
the sewer not being in proper condition, being old,
starting to fail, etc. And they want it replaced.
Well, here's where things get a little messy, but I'm sure the
homeowner has no recourse.
I don't know exactly when, but many years ago the town came through
and dug up everyone's easement (?) and replaced the cast iron with PVC
at the property lines. (The town owns about 10' of everyone's front
yard). They also installed a PVC cleanout so that they didn't have to
go into basements anymore if someone called the town about a blocked
sewer. They would snake from the cleanout to street and if that solved
the problem, good. If not, it was the homeowner's problem to deal with
the cast iron section. To be more specific, it is the homeowner's
problem to deal with anything from the cleanout back towards the
OK, so picture a PVC cleanout similar to this, with the "flow" pipe
being the homeowner's cast iron sewer and the rest being the town's
The town considers the junction of the cast iron "flow" pipe and the
PVC cleanout to be "before the cleanout" and therefore the homeowner's
responsibility. The homeowner told me that the town brought over a
scope the last time he had a partial blockage (5 years ago). It showed
that the town's section was clear and that the roots were coming in at
the junction of the PVC and the cast iron. So, even though the town
could be blamed for causing the problem, they also claim that it is
the homeowner's problem to fix it.
The homeowner snaked the piped, cleared the blockage and has been
using RootX ever since.
The other night we were chatting about our houses and the discussion
of "if you were to sell, what would you disclose" came up. he told me
about his sewer and that's what prompted this question.
I spent the years between 1940 and 1950 in Lynbrook, New York. (on Long
Island) We had cesspools dug in our front lawns. these were bottle shaped
chambers about 15 feet deep by 10 feet in diameter, with concrete covers
aroud 4 feet in diameter and a couple of feet under the lawn that were lined
with concrete blocks with popenings through them for water to seep through.
All of our sewage went into these things, and they were pumped out
periodically when they got full and didn;t work any more. The trucks that
pumped them out brought the sewage to a treatment plant somewhere, just as
sewer systems today take it through pipes to these same plants. At the
plant, it received, "primary" treatment before it was pumped into the ocean
where, (supposedly) it didn't harm the environment.
The EPA has strict rules about sewage flow, during rain it cant exceed
twice the normal flow, or something like that.
sewage rates are tripling their old rate to meet the new requirements,
currently sewage costs far more than water
Newer cities usually have a seperaqte sewer and storm drainage system. but
in the older ones, sometimes this isn't the case, and during heavy rains,
the system becomes overloaded with water, and the sewage treatment plant has
to be bypassed, and the water allowed to go in the river, lake, or ocean
without treatment. (information only.... I was almost a sewage treatment
plant operator before I became an engineer)
It may be obvious to you, but in my experience, many people don;t know that
the sewer system and the storm drainage system are, or should be two
seperwate systems, and when they are not, heavy rains can stop the sewage
treatment plantss from working.
I got the tour from my brother many times. I'm not sure here, but the other
borough made their rounds checking all houses for proper exits. I just had
some interior work done. Always wondered how it was piped. Originally had
septic and clean water, which I guess the clean water went into the yard,
and clean water from roof.
Im sure Pittsburgh let's the flood gates open, but improvements were on the
I pay a little less than 50% of my water bill for sewage.
Alcosan isnt all of allegheny county, just a part of it.
I live in mc candless, and our sewage is treated by the MTSA mc
candless twp sanitary authority. They replaced a mile or so of main
line some years ago in front of my home, the job took all summer. It
was root infested terracota.
the line turns and runs between me and a neighbor, and because
residents didnt follow the rules runs under a 20 by 20 foot shed in
another neighbors yard, and under a large fancy patio....
neither of which had a building permit or they wouldnt be
The sanitary authority tells me the line is as much as 15 feet deep
because of where it goes, and it was installed around 1949.
Replacing this section of just over 300 feet will cost a fortune, and
the neighbor with the offending shed and patio threatened legal
action. The sanitary company wanted the owner to pay restoration
I had a fence erected along the area and had no choice but to agree to
pay removal and restoration if work on the line is necessary
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